The Green Boat, by environmentalist and psychologist Mary Pipher, is a meditation on activism and political engagement, climate change, trauma, burnout, and hope and healing. In my opinion, environmental activists do not acknowledge the very real possibility of burnout and the emotional consequences of our work often enough. As Barbara Kingsolver, the novelist and poet, said, “Do you think we can keep doing this without paying a price?”
In Pipher’s words: “The Green Boat posits a trauma to transcendence cycle that begins with awareness and leads first to resilient coping and then in many people to what I call a transcendent response.” She details her personal journey through this cycle, finally finding healing and community in a local Nebraskan group that is fighting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Pipher ultimately posits that to heal the planet we must heal ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our emotions. The inner and outer worlds are interwoven, and without sanity within, we cannot hope for the sanity to deal with climate chaos, species extinction, environmental degradation, systemic injustice, economic inequality, corporate control, immigrants’ rights, endless war and propaganda…
Environmental and climate psychology are important emerging fields. If you’re feeling out of control and overloaded with terrible news, I’d recommend picking up The Green Boat. At the very least, you will know you are not alone in your worries about the fate of the world.
On Tuesday, November 18th, the United States Senate voted on the highly controversial Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) that would bring Canadian tar sands 1,700 miles through forest, desert, and sand hills from Alberta’s boreal forest to the Texas Gulf Coast. The vote was proposed by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), and it needed 60 votes in order to pass and permit construction of KXL. It failed by a close final count of 59-41. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives last week (the Sioux tribe declared this an act of war against their nation).
President Obama has said that his position on KXL has not changed. In fact, it seems he may be even more against the pipeline. He has said he will not approve the pipeline if it is shown that it will contribute to climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions (which it obviously does). Luckily, Obama will not see this bill on his desk, but there is still room for him to lead and reject Keystone for good. Regardless, the vote is a victory for environmental and climate activists who have worked hard for years to stop the construction of this destructive pipeline.
This issue is particularly close to my heart. In March 2014 I participated in XL Dissent, where more than 1,000 students marched from Georgetown University, where President Obama gave a speech on climate change in 2013, to the White House, where 398 people zip-tied themselves to the fence and got arrested. I was one of the 398, and I was arrested for my convictions and for my hope for the future. You can read more about my reasons for getting arrested here.